Author: Audrey Driscoll

Writer, gardener, lapsed cataloguer, and author of the Herbert West Series.

Purple crocuses

The Old Garden and the Old Gardener

I’ve been gardening the same patch of land for a quarter century. You would think that means perfection has been achieved.

You would be wrong.

An old garden full of trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs, and self-seeding annuals, gardened by someone not good at ruthless removal, becomes a mess. New gardeners, take note! Sometimes you have to remove (i.e., kill) perfectly healthy, beautiful plants because they’re in the wrong place, or there are too many of them, or they’re weeds. If you relent and let them be, your garden will become a mess.

Define “mess.”

In my garden, it means a jumble of plants above ground and an entanglement of roots, rhizomes, corms, and bulbs beneath the surface. Any garden project, however simple and straightforward its intention, rapidly becomes complicated and tricky.

purple hellebore flowers

Oriental hellebore

For example, the other day I decided to cut down the old foliage of some oriental hellebores, to better display the emerging flowers, and in anticipation of distributing compost and fertilizer in the next few weeks. This is best done while the ground is relatively bare, meaning after old stuff has been removed and before new growth has covered the ground. And, of course, after any unwanted plants (sometimes called “weeds”) have been removed.

Simple, right? Except that in this garden the line between weed and non-weed has always been kind of fuzzy.

Arum italicum foliage

Italian arum foliage

So, back to the hellebores. Snipping the old stems close to the ground was easy, but while doing that I noticed that a nearby patch of Italian arum was encroaching on some emerging irises and the still dormant buds of a peony. I had been careless about cutting down the arum’s seed stalks (because they’re so ornamental, like little red corn cobs on sticks) and they had sprouted new plants around the original one, as well as spreading underground. I got the hori-hori knife and went to work.

June 11, 2016

Hori-hori knife and its sheath.

The young arums were easy enough to dig up and remove, but the mature arums’ bulbous roots are quite deep underground. Try digging them up without harming the irises and peonies. Too often, I heard that awful crisp snap of plant tissues breaking. Several arum roots remained below ground, and at least one iris was prematurely dispatched. At the end of the session, instead of a neatly weeded patch of ground, the area resembled a battlefield, complete with casualties.

The whole place is like this! Regular garden plants rub roots with the tough specimens I brought in because they were recommended for situations like mine — sandy soil, shade, tree roots, and increasingly dry summers. Any kind of adjustment that involves digging almost always becomes a blood and guts situation — well, okay, a battle with roots, with some unoffending plant as collateral damage.

Another annoyance this year is the crocus massacre. Over the years, crocuses, mostly purple ones, have multiplied and spread through the garden, sometimes by accident, sometimes intentionally. But now I’ve found many holes several inches deep, surrounded by broken crocus shoots, many with buds showing. The bulbs — or more accurately, corms — have been eaten. Rats, which have become distressingly numerous in this superlative suburb in recent years, are my number one suspect. I know squirrels are reputed to eat crocuses, but there have always been squirrels here, and I’ve never observed them digging up crocuses. They’re more interested in picking up sunflower seeds dropped from the bird feeder, and unlike rats, they’re diurnal. So I’ve resorted to covering the remaining crocuses with chicken wire, which is ugly and not kind to plant tissues, but may preserve them.

That’s the thing about gardening, though. Unlike many hobbies or avocations, it involves so many factors beyond the control of the person who undertakes it. Weather, soil, birds, rats, insects, and the gardener’s state of health (both physical and mental) — all these things influence what happens in a garden, but none of them is entirely under the gardener’s control.

Picking up the spade and the trowel, and committing oneself to turning a patch of land into a garden, is a momentous undertaking. Once you’ve created the garden, you must do whatever it takes to maintain it, even if that means struggles of various kinds. Frost? Cover or move those tender plants. Drought? Hoist the watering can and wrestle with the hose. Crowding and imbalance? Clip back, cut down, or dig up. Weeds? Pull and dig. And curse and pull and dig some more. Ravenous rodents? Lay out chicken wire. And so on.

Gardening is a lifelong negotiation with the forces of the natural world. Few things are more real and raw. And despite everything, worthwhile.

Crocuses and chicken wire to prevent rats from digging them up

Chicken wire may protect these crocuses from being dug up by rats.

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Free Book Marketing Guide

A new edition of Mark Coker’s Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (ebook), with 65 book marketing ideas, is now available as a free download at these outlets:

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More information at the Smashwords Blog.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Open House Interview with author Audrey Driscoll

I had the chance to participate in Sally Cronin’s Open House today. She provided some interesting questions, and hopefully my answers are interesting as well.

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

My guest today on the Open House is supernatural/paranormal author of The Herbert West Series, Audrey Driscoll.

About Audrey Driscoll

I grew up reading books, and became interested in making stories myself. I worked out scenes and bits of dialogue, and made my friends act out little dramas based on my favourite book at the time – Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.

With that background, it was inevitable I would become a writer. It just took a while. After establishing a career as a librarian – first at the University of Saskatchewan and then at the Greater Victoria Public Library in British Columbia – I had a meaningful encounter with H.P. Lovecraft’s character Herbert West.

Strangely fascinated by HPL’s corpse-reanimating physician and his friend the nameless narrator, I built a set of stories around them. In 2000, I was compelled to write them down. The result was The Friendship of Mortals…

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Sharing Winter Iris

A while ago, I received a request for permission to use one of my garden photos — the one of Iris unguicularis you see above. That was perfectly fine with me. I said “Go ahead,” and thought no more of it.

A few days ago, I received an email from the writer of the Regarding Gardening blog, with a link to an informative and interesting post about this winter-blooming iris species, also known as the Algerian iris. My photo of the plant is featured at the top of the post, which is also studded with links to other worthwhile resources. One I intend to look up is E.A. Bowles’s book My Garden in Autumn and Winter. It’s described as a masterpiece, but somehow it has eluded my notice, even though published more than a hundred years ago.

Aside from feeling chuffed that someone found one of my photos useful, I thought the post, and indeed the blog itself, is worth a visit.

Ironically, that very same iris plant is completely bloomless so far this winter, even though it looks perfectly healthy, with lots of new growth starting. I hope its fame hasn’t turned it into a prima donna.

manuscript and notebook She Who Comes Forth work in progress

Finished!

Today — Thursday, January 25th, 2018 — I typed the final sentence of my work in progress, followed by finis. Why finis instead of THE END? No reason, except that’s how I’ve envisioned it for the last few months. (Besides, finis is cool).

Well, okay, it’s only the first draft. And it’s still steaming. I’ll leave it to cool and solidify, and then start poking around, cutting out bits from here, adding some stuff there, reworking and massaging — in other words, editing.

But right now, I’m relishing the state of completion. I started writing this novel a year ago, picking it up after a false start and a couple years of dormancy. Now it’s complete, even if rough. No more worrying about cranking out the next section, and the one after that. No more visualizing action scenes, contriving conversations, and wondering how long it would take to get from A to B. And no more fictitious meals to put together.

Facts and figures

Title (provisional): She Who Comes Forth.

Word count:  104,816, but that includes notes to self like [CHECK THIS!] and [LUMPY! REWORK!]. So this number is subject to change.

Genre: Uncertain. Maybe “Women’s adventure fiction.” Is that a genre? With a coming-of-age element, and the necessary injection of the supernatural. This is, after all, a spinoff from the Herbert West Series.

Setting: Luxor, Egypt and the Theban Necropolis on the west bank of the Nile.

Time period: Autumn, 1962.

Publication date: Uncertain. Late 2018 or early 2019, depending on how editing goes, and other factors.

Things to do immediately: save to flash drive, external hard drive, and the cloud. Email a copy to self. I don’t want to lose the document to some sort of computer ailment. I’d still have the handwritten manuscript (pictured above), but it’s only the proto-draft. The real first draft is a lot better quite different.

hot air balloons over Luxor Egypt

Image from Pixabay

 

The Willful Character And The Act of Writing

 

I read comments by writers all the time saying their characters take over and start driving the plot of the story. With my current work in progress, I’ve become quite the plotter, making detailed outlines for each section of the work before I start writing. So imagine my surprise when the pen in my hand started writing a scene that was definitely not in the outline! What’s more, it was an unplanned sex scene.

Once it was written, I had to admit that scene actually worked, but the whole thing got me thinking about the willful character. Maybe it’s a form of “automatic writing,” not in the supernatural sense, but the result of tapping into subconscious impulses while in a state of receptiveness induced by the act of writing. (Hey, that’s not bad, considering I made it up on the spot).

The best fictional characters are like real people, complete with flaws, quirks and contradictory impulses. Some writers develop their characters before they actually start writing the novel. Physical features, musical and food preferences, hobbies, education — a complete curriculum vitae. I’m not that kind of writer. I have a hazy vision of my primary characters, that becomes clearer as I write. There seems to be a department in my brain called Character Development, that trots out details about each major character when needed. Sometimes it throws me a surprise.

One of the best parts of the writing process is when this automatic thing kicks in and the words pour out effortlessly. Sometimes it feels as though I’m just copying stuff dictated to me by a disembodied brain. It’s probably my brain. Or some kind of collective unconscious, a well of ideas available to all who yield themselves to the writing urge. That’s where our characters come from, finding their way in response to tentative images in our writing brains.

Characters manifest their characteristics, prompting a kind of negotiation with the author. “Okay, that’s fine — you can do this, but not that. And definitely not the other thing.” But cut them some slack. Willful characters aren’t a problem, but a sign that the writer’s imagination is engaged beyond the scope of the outline, tapping into a realm of mystery. And that’s good.

Sitting down to write, giving yourself up to whatever you are creating, is like going down an unexplored trail. You just don’t know what you might meet around the corner, even if you have a map. Whether you outline your plot in detail before you start, or write by the seat of your pants, you must be prepared for the unexpected.

SWCF manuscript and notesThe first stage of creating a work of fiction — the first draft — isn’t the place to worry about rules, or getting every detail right. At this stage, the writer’s imagination needs to be cranking out stuff, producing raw material to be refined later. That’s why I still write my first drafts — or maybe they’re better called “proto-drafts” — in longhand. Actually, “longhand” seems too fancy a term for my cursive scribble on the borderline of legibility.

The thing is, at this stage you don’t want to read over what you’ve written and polish it. You want to forge ahead, beating out the rough shape of your story, bumps, holes and all. Don’t look back! For me, stark black words on the bright white screen are just too intimidating. I really doubt I would have written that sudden sex scene if I’d been using my laptop. But I scribbled it down, and when I typed it up a few days later, the critical, analytical part of my brain said, “Well, okaaay, I guess it works.”

As for my work in progress — the first draft is almost done! Another 5,000 words or so, and I can write Finis.

And then, of course, I go back to the beginning. The crazy, creative part of my brain will take a back seat, and the critical, analytical part will get to to do its thing.

Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.

 

The Disappointed Housewife is LIVE!

The Disappointed Housewife has made the scene and is seeking the quirky and off-beat. Might be you!

WHAT THE HELL

The Disappointed Housewife is alive and well and living in a newly disclosed location: thedisappointedhousewife.com.

First of all, please navigate to the site and immediately follow. We need to build a readership in a hurry so that all the terrific, intrepid writers can get plenty of eyeballs on their work.

While you’re there, poke around, read the Editor’s Note, the mission statement, and the submission guidelines. Then sample some of the pieces I’ve gathered for the launch. There’s already some fiction, a number of poems, a couple of essays, and a graphic piece. I already have more things lined up for later in the week too.

You can browse the site by scrolling down the main page. Everything is there. But you can also use the navigation bar on the right to select one of the categories: Fiction, Essays, Poetry, and Faux Forms & Genres. Later the site will…

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Get Set for THE Adventure Writing Contest

This contest looked exciting back in November, and now that the details have been worked out, it’s even more so! And I seem to remember saying “I’m in” back then, so I’d better fire up the old imagination engine.

Fiction by Rachael Ritchey

Hey, hey, hey!!!

It’s time to prepare for the Adventure Scifi and Fantasy Contest coming at the end of February!

I’ve got all the official rules and stuff for you here today, but we’ll get to that shortly.

Entries for this Short Story Contest don’t actually open until February 26th, 2018, so you’ve got time to prepare…or procrastinate. Whichever style you prefer.

If you missed my query back in November, I put out feelers to see who’d be interested in joining a writing contest using a book cover design I made as inspiration.

My simple dream for this contest goes something like this:

A bunch of talented, inspired writers take a stab at this FREE contest to win some prizes and have their short stories included in an anthology where the proceeds from sales will be donated to a charity. In this case, I’ve chosen Compassion International.

The Basics

Write…

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Electric Eclectic

Guest Post: An Alternative to Free Ebooks

Just before Christmas, I read this post on Paul White’s blog. As you can see, it sparked some fairly diverse comments. In fact, I was so busy formulating my comment, I didn’t read the end of the post as thoroughly as it warranted.

Paul’s solution to the give-books-away-for-free marketing strategy deplored by the rest of his post is called Electric Eclectic Novelettes.

At this point, I’ll turn it over to Paul…

*~*~*

To quote that wonderful philosopher, Winnie the Pooh, “The beginning is a very good place to start.”

I was looking for a great book to read.

I finished reading the last book by my favourite author. It would be another year, maybe two, before his next book became available. This meant I needed to search for another book to read. I was even willing to stray from my usual genre to find an excellent read.

Easier said than done.

You would think, with over 45 million books on Amazon alone, finding a story to enjoy, a book you can immerse yourself in totally, would be a pretty easy thing.

But no, it is not.

You could look through the thousands of free books on offer. But… much of the time there are reasons books are offered for free, or heavily discounted, by their authors… and not all those reasons are good.

There is the uncertain quality and content of many of the full priced eBooks. Anyway, do you really want to commit spending your hard-earned cash to buy something you do not enjoy reading, or find the writer’s style is not to your taste?

It all makes choosing a ‘new to me’ author or selecting a book from a different genre a bit of a lottery.

That’s when I thought there must be a better way.

I asked myself, “HOW CAN YOU MAKE CERTAIN A BOOK YOU BUY WILL BE ONE YOU ENJOY?”

Electric EclecticThat’s when I had my eureka moment.

The result is Electric Eclectic Novelettes.

‘Electric’ because they are ebooks– digital, electric.

‘Eclectic’ for the various styles, genres and authors who write them.

And ‘Novelettes‘ to tell readers they are short, sample books, introducing readers to new authors and new genres.

Electric Eclectic (EE) books are written by various authors under the EE brand as introductory, sample works of each author’s writing style and narrative forms.

Each EE book is a short work of between 6k and 20k words.

A standardised price of just 1.00 (dollar/pound/euro) for each novelette, allows people searching for new reads to get to know our EE authors’ styles and narrative types before committing to purchase their full-length books and novels.

Offering these short works also lets people read examples of genres they may not have previously considered.

Electric Eclectic books are written by some of the best indie authors in the world. Each Electric Eclectic Novelette delivers wonderful and entertaining storytelling to a high standard.

All Electric Eclectic Novelettes undergo stringent assessment, ensuring the storytelling is of high quality, dismissing concerns generally associated with low cost or free eBooks. People searching for their ‘next favourite read’ can rest assured in the knowledge that Electric Eclectic Novelettes have undergone a rigorous selection process, ensuring the stories meet exacting standards.

This means you do not need to read through a bunch of substandard books, or spend money on a random book hoping you will enjoy its content. Say goodbye to ‘dodgy’, inferior writes.

Once you have found the right style of stories, the ones you love, you will have found your next favourite author and can start to work your way through their full-length books and novels knowing you thoroughly enjoy their writing.

Download a handful of Electric Eclectic Novelettes and give yourself a literary treat!

Electric Eclectic Novelettes are easy to find.

The first way is to visit the Electric Eclectic website where all the Novelettes are shown, along with author insights and links to their personal books and pages.

The second is to go to Amazon books and type ‘Electric Eclectic books’ into the search bar. (In the USA you will need the Amazon.com Kindle search page.)

Alternatively, if you are on Amazon.co.uk you can follow this link: http://amzn.to/2BnYe7u

Website link: https://goo.gl/q2zwTS  (This site is available to view, but not fully functional or edited. Estimated date of completion Mid-January 2018)

Email: EEbookbranding@mail.com

Coming soon!

Here is a new outlet for creative impulses of the quirky kind. Have a look at Kevin’s suggestions to get inspired.

WHAT THE HELL

The Disappointed Housewife is approaching!

I’ve received a number of fun pieces the last few weeks, and though I’m still keeping the pre-launch submission window open, the big day will be January 15. Mark your calendars.

I hope all my readers here at What The Hell will quickly follow the new lit mag and start spreading the word. But I’m also eager to see new submissions coming in so I can build up a nice catalog of material for readers. I’ll be posting open submission calls at a variety of places, hoping to find a lot of writers willing to try new things. Of course, I’ll always give readers of this blog a fair shot at publication because loyalty deserves reward. If you have something you think would fit in at TDH, send it on over. Or read the pieces that I’ve already assembled to get a feel for…

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